O/NSO - Auburn review

The eighth-ranked University of Southern California Trojans (1-0) turned the humid environmental theatre of the absurd, known as Jordan-Hare Stadium, into a cool Southern California beach party extravaganza with a stunning 23-0 shutout over the sixth-ranked Auburn Tigers before 86,063 mostly melted Southerners.

The Obvious – The eighth-ranked University of Southern California Trojans (1-0) turned the humid environmental theatre of the absurd, known as Jordan-Hare Stadium, into a cool Southern California beach party extravaganza with a stunning 23-0 shutout over the sixth-ranked Auburn Tigers before 86,063 mostly melted Southerners, thus showcasing to the nation that the torch has been passed from John McKay to John Robinson to Pete Carroll.

The Not So Obvious – So dominating was the Trojans' performance, that by the time Trojan sophomore tailback Hershel Dennis exploded off a pile of humanity for a 14-yard 4th quarter score, many of the Auburn fans were streaming out of Jordan-Hare Stadium and canceling plans for a traditional victory celebration at Toomer's Corner, which the Trojans turned into Tombstone Corner.

The Obvious - The Trojans came into the game as 4-pont underdogs and many of the talking pundits like Fox's Kellen Winslow and ESPN's Mark May were predicting an Auburn rushing demolition over the Trojans. Heck, even our own "Petros" predicted an Auburn victory, although he said his heart wanted the Trojans and was happy to be wrong.

The Not So Obvious – On the CBS Sports Central Show following the game, UCLA honk and XTRA Sports Loose Cannon Steve "Homer" Hartman could not come up with enough superlatives in accessing the Trojans dominating performance. Hartman even mentioned that his father was in the USC class 0f '53.

The Obvious – At kickoff time, the weather was 88 degrees, 70% humidity, and partly cloudy. After the game, Coach Pete Carroll saw the difference in conditioning between two teams when he commented, "It was their place, but in the end they were suckin!"

The Not So Obvious – Auburn offensive coordinator Hugh Nall removed the weather analysis and put it more in football terminology by bluntly saying, "I saw a great defense kick our ass."

The Obvious - It was absolutely stunning to see the Trojans fly around the field for four quarters as if the game was being played in Antarctica. For all intensive purposes, the incredibly conditioned Trojans looked as though they were playing the game in the super bonus room of an air-conditioned Newport Coast million dollar home.

The Not So Obvious - - One of the reasons the Trojans continued to show so much spark throughout the game was the use of "Cool Capes", unveiled for the first time. The capes served as jackets which instantly cooled down Trojans who wore it. A number of Trojans would rush off the field and put on the jacket, not to mention USC's head trainer Russ Romano's happy Gatorade open bar celebration. Before the game, Romano informed, "Gatorade at the hotel. Gatorade in the locker room. Gatorade in pregame and halftime. It's going to be everywhere."

The Obvious – The Sunday papers in Southern California trumpeted the Trojans triumph in the South as the Los Angeles Times bannered "Southern Comfortable", the Orange County Register headlined "Smashing Success", and the Daily News announced "USC Keeps Orange Glow, Shuts Out Auburn."

The Not So Obvious – The Sunday Alabama papers understandably gave the opposite perspective. The Huntsville Times screamed "Wild Bunch 11 Runs Roughshod over Tigers", the Mobile Register flung mud at Auburn offensive coordinator Hugh Nall with "Nallsminger Attack Stalls Against Trojans", and the Birmingham News tried a little Southern tenderness with "Auburn Defensive Line Wasn't As Bad As It Looked".

The Obvious – There were many fears before the game that the virgin Trojan backfield of sophomore quarterback Matt Leinart, tailback Hershel Dennis, and junior fullback Lee Webb might self-destruct with numerous turnovers in such a pressure situation, but the Trojans dominated Auburn in total yards 315 to 164.

The Not So Obvious –The biggest numeral was zero, as in the number of interceptions and fumbles from these Trojan "minors". It was the experienced Tigers who committed three deadly turnovers thanks to a hard-hitting Trojan defense. Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville sighed, "When you turn it over three times against a team like that, you're not going to have much chance to win the ball game."

The Obvious – Making his debut in the most intimidating of stadiums, all lefty quarterback Matt Leinart provided was an efficient passing day 17 of 30 for 192 yards and one touchdown.

The Not So Obvious – Even when the shy 6-5 quarterback ran down field out of the pocket, he remembered to slide before taking a big hit, perhaps a lesson he learned after watching Carson Palmer learn some painful lessons. Only once did Leinart try to force a ball and he got away with that decision. Plain and simple, the Chow system is now in place in the third year and Trojan quarterbacks and the offense, in general, looks it.

The Obvious – Because of the tremendous summer practice displays by sensational freshman running back Reggie Bush, many were ready to strip Long Beach Poly's Hershel Dennis of his starting position.

The Not So Obvious – Hold on thar, BabaLouie. Dennis is the complete back. The type of running back that is an all around nightmare for any team. You want more explosive? Well, wait till Dennis plays against defenses not as swift as the Tigers. Wait till he catches balls out of the backfield. No. 34 just doesn't go down on the first hit. The kid is a warrior.

The Obvious – Take away Auburn's two longest rushing plays of 14 and 12 yards, and the Tigers tried 34 carries for just 17 yards - a half a yard per rushing play.

The Not So Obvious – The loss and the lack of much rushing daylight was almost more than stellar running back Carnell Williams could handle. Afterwards Williams said, "It was really embarrassing. Getting all the media and hype…it's a very disappointing feeling."

The Obvious – Sophomore tight end Dominique Byrd, starting in place of injured Alex Holmes, had three receptions for 63 yards and a couple of key blocks for Trojan backs.

The Not So Obvious – One of Bryd's receptions was a beautifully executed tight end flat pass that went for 43 yards which Coach Chow thought he should have scored. Chow hinted to Bryd later about perhaps going on the Atkins diet. Bryd received a nice block down field his tight end brother Greg Guenther and might have scored if Justin Wyatt could have sustained his downfield block.

The Obvious – Given the weather and the maniacal crowd, the Tigers had the early advantage of shade as the home fellas bench was on the shady side of Jordon-Hare while the Trojans were left in the sun to bake like Toll House cookies.

The Not So Obvious – Trojan fans in attendance got a real taste of a major game in the South. Auburn linebacker Dontarrious Thomas informed, "It was like a Georgia or Alabama game. It was one of the best atmospheres I've been a part of. That makes it real tough, to have so much support and lose like this."

The Obvious – While the final outcome of the game turned orange-faced Auburn fans into cardinal-faced anger, prior to kickoff scalpers were working Toomer's Corner like the best near Staples Center. A single scalped ticket on the 30-yard line in Section 4 sold for $125.

The Not So Obvious – So was Jordon-Hare Stadium all that it was cracked up to be? Not in the eyes of victorious Trojan Coach Pete Carroll who said, "It (Jordan-Hare Stadium) ain't as bad as some of the other places. We have played in more difficult places." Might the coach be thinking ahead to Tempe, South Bend, or Seattle?

The Obvious – Under offensive line Coach Tim Davis, the Trojans have shown a real nasty attitude in attacking the line of scrimmage and defending Leinart.

The Not So Obvious – On the Hershel Dennis 14-yard score, the line kept fighting while Dennis kept looking. With a key block by redshirt freshman guard Fred Matua, who has a Wild Bunch 11 attitude, Dennis was able to kick through a Tiger sprinting into the end zone. By the way, there are two ways to find Matua on the field. You can look for No. 57 or just look for the Trojan helmet with the pigtail coming out the back.

The Obvious – The shutout of Auburn was the Tigers' first shutout loss at Jordan –Hare Stadium since a 19-0 defeat to Virginia in the 1998 opener.

The Not So Obvious - The Wild Bunch 11 lived up to its billing as one of the nation's premier defensive lines, but it was the play of new middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu ( 8 solo tackles sacks, four assists, including two sacks ) that brought recognition from the CBS broadcasting crew. Tatupu looked as though he has been under Carroll and Coach Holt for years.

The Obvious – It was very unusual when Carroll decided to add senior JC transfer corner Will Pool considering the kid had only one year left to play.

The Not So Obvious – Pool, who Carroll says would have been a third or fourth round draft pick had he elected to go, was everywhere showing big-hitting form on several plays as Tigers went down like big game on safari. As the season progresses, fans will really enjoy watching his physical secondary play and special teams aggressiveness.

The Obvious – Prior to the game and describing the USC defense, Auburn star offensive guard Monreko Crittenden said, "They (USC) don't do anything different from the last three defenses we played (Georgia, Alabama, Penn State) except they slant all the time. If we catch them in a slant and make all our blocks and the right calls with the backs we've got, it can go to the house every time."

The Not So Obvious – Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville must be in shock at the awesome performance of Carroll's defense. Before the game and analyzing the Trojans' defensive line, Tuberville said, "Our last three games were against, I think, the best three defensive lines in the country last year, bar none. We won't see any tougher competition out of this group (USC). They might be good. I thought we rose to the challenge last year (at the Coliseum)." They might be good, Tommy? Last year at the Coliseum, Auburn rushed for 140 yards while this year AU managed just 43 yards at home.

The Obvious – Auburn was picked as the number one team in the nation by The Sporting News, a fact that was not dismissed in Trojan bulletin board material. As ESPN's Ivan Mazel points out, the pre-season publicity went to the wrong team.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans must now face the prospect of being the national media darlings and maturity by senior leadership will be very important. SC will now really be the hunted. Just how this team handles what figures to be months of scrutiny and media speculation will go a long way in determining its success.

The Obvious – Last year's game at the Coliseum was all about time of possession which the Trojans dominated 34:28 to 25:32.

The Not So Obvious – Compared to last year, this year's Trojan dominance was only 32:15 to 27:45. Given that stat, it was an even a more remarkable defensive effort by Troy.

The Obvious – During summer practice, there was justifiable concern over the Trojan kicking game, especially kicker Ryan Killeen, who was in stiff competition during camp with walk-on freshman Mario Danelo.

The Not So Obvious – With most of his kickoffs near or in the end zone and his spotless field goal success (28, 35, 42), Carroll said of Killeen's performance after the game, "The kicking game was by far the best since I've been here." Killeen's future performances could go a long way in determining a BCS Bowl or a trip to El Paso. The kid has been was under as much heat in pre-season as the Trojan fans seated in the high 100 sections of Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The Obvious – The Trojans went into halftime with a 10-0 lead at Jordan-Hare Stadium, as opposed to last year when the game was tied 14-14 at the half.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans seemed a bit more fanatical in the second half on defense. After the game Carroll commented, "Coach Orgeron had an absolute fit at halftime." If you've seen Orgeron have a "fit" during practice, you can bet what it must have looked like in the visitor's locker room. You can be Coach "O's" halftime performance will be on the cutting floor of this year's DVD highlight film.

The Obvious – Trojan nose guard Mike Patterson from Los Alamitos High was near impossible to block for the heralded Auburn offensive line, which many publications said might be the best in the country.

The Not So Obvious – On one play away from the ball, the line judge found Mike twisting the facemask of a Tiger lineman. Of Patterson's performance, Carroll said, "It was cool. They couldn't handle him." Much of Patterson's success was due to the return of Shaun Cody, who showed no distraction from his knee injury.

The Obvious – There was much concern over the health and condition of the Trojan offensive line, especially linemen Jacob Rogers, Norm Katnik, and Lenny Vandermade.

The Not So Obvious – Despite the heavy heat and humidity conditions, it was remarkable this group was able to keep attacking and started to wear down the Tigers in the 4th quarter. There was one frightening moment when Vandermade went down with a leg injury, but Lenny came off the field unassisted. He was replaced by redshirt junior Travis Watkins of San Diego, and the Trojans didn't miss a beat rushing for 123 yards compared to 84 last year against the Tigers.

The Obvious – Coach Tommy Tuberville said before the game that Auburn could have sold 125,00 tickets for this game and this was one of the most anticipated games in Tiger history.

The Not So Obvious – Tickets were going outside the stadium this week for as much as $200.00 apiece. During the week, Auburn defensive line Coach Don Dunn said of the gathering crowd, "I've never seen anything quite like this. These fans, man, they are going wild." Considering the Trojans 23-0 shut, you can bet the Auburn fans and the media are in a different mood of wild.

The Obvious – Receiver Mike Williams and defensive end Kenechi Udeze had to both depart the field due to the heat and humidity for some intravenous fluids.

The Not So Obvious – However, both returned and displayed the excellent play that they displayed last season. Williams still bobbles the ball at times, but he also is as big a threat as ever, as it seems like defensive backs need a crane to bring the 6-5 star down.

The Obvious – Matt Leinart's first completion of his career was a five-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams, who caught the ball in the back of the end zone.

The Not So Obvious – Proving again that most sports are a game of inches, Leinart's touchdown strike to Williams barely missed being tipped in the end zone by Auburn's rangy linebacker Dontarrious Thomas.

The Obvious – Strong Safety Darnell Bing finally made his Trojan debut and make some marvelous plays and more importantly played within himself.

The Not So Obvious – One of Bing's early contributions was his first interception after a pass had been tipped by teammate Kevin Arbet. After the game, Bing said, "It was great to be out here. On the pick, I want to thank the defense, especially Kevin Arbet."

The Obvious – There is little argument that the key to this year's Wild Bunch 11 is the return of tackle Shaun Cody, who didn't skip a beat the entire game.

The Not So Obvious – Cody knew this Auburn offense would be a challenge, but he was asked after the game about the greatness of the Tiger offense. Cody remarked, " We play everyday in practice against the best offense in the world at USC with Norm Chow."

The Obvious – Prior to the game, Tiger DE Reggie Torbor said of Leinart, "We'll try and confuse him and give him different looks. They (USC OL) have a wall of muscle to protect him. It's not going to be easy to get back there (backfield)

The Not So Obvious – Torbor was right as Leinart was sacked just twice by Auburn attackers.

The Obvious – The pciture postcard USC cheerleaders usually display their talents while wearing the traditional white sweaters with the letters U-S-C on the front.

The Not So Obvious – Adjusting like the USC football staff, the ladies broke out a sweeter vest allowing their arms and shoulders to be exposed. It didn't stop the CBS cameras from zooming in on the babes.

The Obvious – During the CBS telecast, sideline reporter Jill Arrington interviewed Trojan fullback legend Sam Cunningham who may have been the single contributor to sports integration in the South after his devastating rushing performance against Alabama under Bear Bryant in 1970.

The Not So Obvious – While Cunningham's exploits are legendary, so are Arringtons, who won a Playboy.com "Sexiest Sportscaster in America" two years ago.

The Obvious – In a recent Q&A in WeAreSC.com with Trojans' Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Carlisle, Trojan fans got a great look into how Troy prepared for the 2003 season.

The Not So Obvious – So one would have to think nobody got more satisfaction over the 23-0 victory over Auburn than Coach Carlisle. Coach Tuberville validated Carlisle's work saying after the game, "There's no excuses, they just beat us up front."

The Obvious – There was no greater defensive force than linebacker Matt Grootegoed, the human missile, who spearheaded the linebacker attack along with Champ Simmons and Tatupu.

The Not So Obvious – As the season progresses, there may not be a more underated unit that Grootegoed, Simmons, and Tatupu. The Wild Bunch 11 gets well deserved kudos, but it is the entire front seven that makes this unit one of America's best.

The Obvious – Before the game, Norm Chow said, " All the tailbacks will play. We'll see what we've got."

The Not So Obvious – Reggie Bush had 5 carries for 9 yards, LenDale White had 5 carries for 9 yards, and Chauncey Washington had 3 carries for 24 yards. All got a taste of Southern grass. Bush found the going tough early despite darting and dashing while "The Bruise Brothers", White and Washington, found more daylight straight ahead late in the game. Washington looked especially effective rumbling between the tackles.

The Obvious – The punting of both teams was also as lopsided as the score as Tom Malone punted seven times for an average of 45.1 while Auburn tried two punters that saw 10 punts for a 36.3 average.

The Not So Obvious – Despite the heat, Malone came out in warm-ups and punted for a half hour leading some to think in the heat that he was going to wear himself out.

The Obvious – Prior to the game, running back Ronnie Brown said, "They (USC) have got all that tradition, especially with the tailbacks. This could prove to be a great way to prove where we are."

The Not So Obvious – Brown rushed for 28 yards in eight carries. Only Cadillac Williams (12-40), who had no run longer than 14 yards, and Brown carried the ball at running back. The two other heralded tailbacks, Tre Smith and big Brandon Jacobs, did not carry the ball, although Smith did take back punts.

The Obvious – CBS had a touching piece on the passing of Drean Rucker with a photograph and tastefully done dialogue by play-by-play Vern Lundquist.

The Not So Obvious – On the back left of every Trojan helmet was a football with Rucker's No.54 on it as a tribute to the late star.

The Obvious – Discussing the high level of importance to Saturday's game, Auburn DE Reggie Torbor said, "This is probably the biggest game any of us have ever been involved in our careers."

The Not So Obvious – After the game, the Trojans' resident spokesperson DE Omar Nazel gushed, "We stopped the run. We stopped the pass. We're takin' all comers. I said all comers, baby, we takin all comers!" What a difference in views before and after a game.

The Obvious – In summer practice, the Trojans did not exhibit a consistent hard-hitting mentality since neither units had all their players at the same time.

The Not So Obvious – Boy, put those first units on the field and the Trojan were hitting like national championship contenders. Best hit was Jason Leach's decapitation shot of Tiger receiver Courtney Taylor, whose helmet and body separated on impact. BYU must have seen an eyeful.

The Obvious – Colorado State transfer Frostee Rucker of Tustin was a real force on the pass rush and even knocked down a Campbell pass. With former Alhambra High star Van Brown out Saturday with an injury, Rucker took full advantage in showcasing his talents.

The Not So Obvious – However, Rucker also got faked out of his jock on one bootleg play by Tiger QB Jason Campbell who went right while Rucker went left and was searching for the ball in "Where's Waldo" fashion.

The Obvious – The Trojans took all five scholarship quarterbacks to the South.

The Not So Obvious – Even with the game neatly tucked away in the 4th quarter after the Hershel Dennis scoring run, the Trojans elected to keep Matt Leinart in the game to the final gun. This happened last year with Palmer, so it would appear to be team policy. It might hurt, however, to let Matt Cassel get some experience and keep Leinart safe for the next game.

The Obvious – Prior to the game, the Trojans stayed in Montgomery, while the Tigers actually left the state and went to LaGrange, Georgia, to have some Woody Hayes peace and quiet.

The Not So Obvious – After Saturday night's disaster, Coach Tuberville may want to spend the entire next week in LaGrange preparing for Georgia Tech just to avoid the merciless Alabama grilling that began late Saturday evening.

The Obvious – The original Wild Bunch was a five member line that played in a "5-2" or "Okie" defense.

The Not So Obvious – The new Wild Bunch that shut down Auburn is a four player line, but it appears there are some supporting actors in LaJuan Ramsey and Frostee Rucker, both of whom showed they are more than capable of keeping the pressure on that Carroll and Orgeron demand.

The Obvious – Los Angeles Times' columnist Bill Plaschke couldn't believe how much faster than last year the 2003 Trojans looked, especially on defense.

The Not So Obvious – Certainly speed begins with talent, but if you have ever seen the intensity of a Trojan practice under Carroll and staff, part of it is forcing the players to play to their full potential. Translation : The harder I work, the faster I get. The internal Auburn message sent to this year's high-ranking freshman talent is this is why "we" practice and train like we do.


The Obvious – So heat nor humidity nor legendary Southern enthusiasm could keep the Trojan winning streak from hitting nine games. The noise of national championship will certainly become louder as the Trojans close in on a top five national ranking.

The Not So Obvious – It's a long season from late August to early January and all sorts of good and bad things can happen on the way to Pasadena or even New Orleans. However, the Trojans are the defending national recruiting champions and judging by Saturday night's performance on national television in front of a motherlode of nationwide recruits, they may well be on their way to a repeat.

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